The Distillery, Whitechapel
A derelict former Gin Distillery, quietly being lost to time in the corner of a car park in London’s East End, seemed an unlikely site to create a bright and inviting family home. Landlocked on two sides, and with flats running the entire length of a third, the challenge was to incorporate light and views into the design without creating issues of overlooking. But it was this challenge that client/architect Rupert Scott of Open Practice Architecture used as inspiration to create a sanctuary of light, space and calm that defies its geographic constraints. Externally the Gin Distillery retains its previous discretion, but on entering the hidden courtyard a vast wooden door eludes to a different world within. The choice of materials focuses on simplicity and durability. Exposed steelwork with timber and polished concrete surfaces make up the ground floor living spaces with large Crittall windows reinstating the original rhythm of apertures. Throughout the interior, carefully placed light wells, screens and openings allow patterns of light to drift across the surfaces as each day progresses. A black steel staircase at the back of the home emerges into a sun-filled landing off which sit two modern cabin style bedrooms and a bathroom with Scandinavian redwood ceilings. An enclosed terrace on the upper floor allows for a tranquil outdoor escape from the bustle of surrounding Whitechapel. A new anthracite zinc roof sits within the walls and protrudes upwards to provide additional height within. The front yard and side passage also serve as secluded, social spaces that cushion the home from its urban surroundings. The Gin Distillery is an exercise in re-use and re-invention, converting strict design limitations into an opportunity for space and tranquilly.